Once an industrial powerhouse, today Manchester is a creative, hipster hotspot known for its thriving art, music and a lively gay scene. The city which spawned some of the world’s best bands including The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, Oasis and the boy-band sensation that is Take That, offers countless entertainment options for every traveler. From its world-class museums to its top-notch restaurants, and to its thumping clubs, Manchester’s finally getting the recognition it deserves; it even was featured recently on Lonely Planet’s „Best in 2016“ list. My LGBT Guide to Manchester:
What to Do
Each year, one of the UK’s largest annual LGBT pride festivals takes place in Manchester, an incredible destination for gay, lesbian and trans travelers. The city’s Gay Village, immortalized in the UK TV series, Queer as Folk, is one of the world’s most vibrant gay neighborhoods. The area centers around a stretch of canal on Canal Street where a host of bars, clubs, and gay-owned business are frequented by locals as well as thousands of tourists each year.
Important historical LGBT landmarks are marked throughout Manchester’s streets by rainbow flags embedded into the sidewalks. Sackville Gardens is home to memorials which pay tribute to the gay movement, including a statue of gay icon Alan Turing, the Transgender Remembrance Memorial sculpture, and the Beacon of Hope sculpture dedicated to those who have or have suffered from AIDS.
If culture’s what you’re after, Manchester has it in spades. The Whitworth Gallery’s collection includes pieces from Van Gogh and Picasso, as well as textiles, prints and sculptures. The People’s History Museum charts the history of working people in the UK, and the renowned theatre and gallery complex, The Lowry, located on Salford Quay, regularly hosts different art exhibitions and performances.
For entertainment (and the flux of music fans flocking to Manchester), fans of the UK’s longest running soap opera Coronation Street can take a tour of the show’s filming locations. Football fans also shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to see a Manchester United match at Old Trafford if they can get tickets. You can also shop till you drop at high-street stores around the city, or at independent, alternative stores in the Northern Quarter.
Where to Eat, Drink and Party
Known for its somewhat rowdy nightlife and a storied music history, it’s no surprise that Mancunians know how to have fun. Manchester has it all when it comes to live music venues, from huge arenas to slightly more intimate venues like Gorilla located under the railway arches on Whitworth Street West or Dulcimer in Chorlton, Manchester’s newest up-and-coming hipster neighborhood. The legendary Band on the Wall venue was at the center of Manchester’s punk scene in the late 1970s and the likes of Joy Division and Buzzcocks played there back in the day. Pick up a copy of the free monthly newspaper, The Skinny, to get the low-down on who’s playing when you’re in town.
After a night out in Manchester, you’ll want to hit one of the Northern Quarter’s many coffee houses for a caffeine fix and maybe indulge in a yummy BLT or organic pancake while you’re at it. The area’s top-quality restaurants are open all-day and many of them turn into trendy bars and clubs at night (check out Soup Kitchen for their hearty, homestyle meals and the basement club below).
Manchester’s multiculturalism is reflected in its exciting range of cuisines found throughout the city. Chinatown offers a plethora of Sichuan and Cantonese restaurants; the Try Thai restaurant on Faulkner Street serves up authentic Thai food, and The Curry Mile—the nickname for part of Wilmslow Road in south Manchester—offers everything from south Indian street food to old school curry houses. And if American fare’s more your thing, get your fill of milkshakes, pulled pork sandwiches, and loaded nachos at Home Sweet Home or head to Northern Soul Grilled Cheese for a gourmet version of a grilled cheese made with their signature three cheese blend on sourdough bread.
In Manchester’s gay village, clubs like G-A-Y remain popular every night of the week with both men and women, but almost always students. Also worth visiting is the Richmond Tea Rooms, upstairs from the more seedy gay bar below The Eagle. The gay café serves traditional afternoon tea with lush snacks and in a perfectly kitsch setting, too.
Where to Stay
The opulent Hotel Gotham is a five-star boutique hotel which exploits its unique setting in a former bank building to great effect. Its retro interior is inspired by the building’s Art Deco heritage, as well as the Batman films and 1930s Manhattan. Just a stone’s throw from the Northern Quarter, the hotel rooms boast large king-sized beds with furry throws, binoculars to gaze out the windows with, and the chance to order an emergency hangover kit or intimacy kit depending on your mood and physical state. Honey Restaurant on the top floor of the hotel is a modern brasserie serving a 21st-Century take on classic dishes. It offers sweeping city views and stays open all day.
Located in the city center, just a 10-minute walk from Manchester’s Gay Village, INNSIDE by Melia is a four-star hotel with a chic minimalist aesthetic, and rooms feature king-sized beds and rainfall showers. Not only does its restaurant regularly host DJs, it themes its meals according to its “Food for a Social Mood” concept. With free Wifi, a Finnish sauna, aromatic steam room and a gym you might not want to leave.
The Hotel Novotel Manchester Centre is a four-star hotel walking distance to Chinatown and the epicenter of Manchester’s Gay Village at Canal Street. Its 164 soundproofed rooms have a minimalist, contemporary design and boast free wifi as well as 24-hour room service. If you really want to indulge, head to its wellness center which has a sauna, hammam, and a small gym. There’s a basic English breakfast buffet to fill you up before heading out to explore the city as well as a restaurant and bar, but since you’ll be in the thick of it you’ll probably want to go out and explore.
Find the LGBT Guide to Manchester in German here.